Frankfurt School

From Polcompball Wiki
Jump to navigationJump to search

This page covers the political concept of critical theory. For a page on critical theory from a philosophical perspective, see the Philosophyball Page

"I have stressed the key role which the universities play in the present period: they can still function as institutions for the training of counter cadres. The "restructuring" necessary for the attainment of this goal means more than decisive student participation and nonauthoritarian learning."[2]

The Frankfurt School is a sociological-philosophical school of Neo-Marxist orientation. The original nucleus of this school, made up mostly of German philosophers and sociologists, emerged in 1923 in the environment of the newborn "Institute for Social Research" of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main In Germany, under the leadership of the Marxist historian Carl Grünberg.

When Hitler came to power the Frankfurt School was put in exile. 16 years later, the Frankfurt School would come back and the institute moved to Geneva (in Switzerland). The Frankfurt school perspective is based upon Marxist, Freudian and Hegelian premises of Idealism. To fill the omissions of 19th-century classical Marxism, which did not address 20th-century social problems, they applied the methods of antipositivist sociology, of psychoanalysis, and of existentialism. While some theorists of the institute remained in the USA, the Frankfurt School was re-established in West Germany, Frankfurt.

Critical theory

The works of the Frankfurt School are understood in the context of critical theory's intellectual and practical objectives. Max Horkheimer defined critical theory as a social critique meant to effect sociologic change and realize intellectual emancipation, by way of enlightenment that is not dogmatic in its assumptions. Critical theory analyses the true significance of the ruling understandings (the dominant ideology) generated in bourgeois society to show that the dominant ideology misrepresents how human relations occur in the real world and how capitalism justifies and legitimates the domination of people.

Unlike Orthodox Marxism, which applies a template to critique and to action, critical theory is self-critical, with no claim to the universality of absolute truth. As such, it does not grant primacy to matter (materialism) or consciousness (idealism), because each epistemology distorts the reality under study to the benefit of a small group. In practice, critical theory is outside the philosophical strictures of traditional theory; however, as a way of thinking and of recovering humanity's self-knowledge, critical theory draws investigational resources and methods from Marxism.


The Frankfurt School reformulated dialectics into a concrete method of investigation, derived from the Hegelian philosophy that an idea will pass over into its own negation, as the result of conflict between the inherently contradictory aspects of the idea. In opposition to previous modes of reasoning, which viewed things in abstraction, each by itself and as though endowed with fixed properties, Hegelian dialectics considers ideas according to their movement and change in time, according to their interrelations and interactions.

Marx used dialectical analysis to uncover the contradictions in the predominant ideas of society, and in the social relations to which they are linked – exposing the underlying struggle between opposing forces. Only by becoming aware of the dialectic (i.e. class consciousness) of such opposing forces in a struggle for power can men and women intellectually liberate themselves, and change the existing social order through social progress.

The Frankfurt School understood that a dialectical method could only be adopted if it could be applied to itself; if they adopted a self-correcting method – a dialectical method that would enable the correction of previous, false interpretations of the dialectical investigation. Accordingly, critical theory rejected the historicism and materialism of Orthodox Marxism.

Critique of Western civilization

The second phase of Frankfurt School critical theory centres principally on two works: Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944) and Adorno's Minima Moralia (1951). While retaining much of a Marxian analysis, these works critical shifted emphasis from a critique of capitalism to a critique of Western civilization, as seen in Dialectic of Enlightenment, which uses the Odyssey as a paradigm for their analysis of bourgeois consciousness. Their exposition of the domination of nature as a central characteristic of instrumental rationality in Western civilization was made long before ecology and environmentalism became popular concerns.

Consequently, at a time when it appears that reality itself has become the basis for ideology, the greatest contribution that critical theory can make is to explore the dialectical contradictions of individual subjective experience on the one hand, and to preserve the truth of theory on the other. Even dialectical progress is put into doubt: "its truth or untruth is not inherent in the method itself, but in its intention in the historical process." This intention must be oriented toward integral freedom and happiness: "The only philosophy which can be responsibly practiced in face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption." Adorno distanced himself from the "optimism" of orthodox Marxism: "beside the demand thus placed on thought, the question of the reality or unreality of redemption [i.e. human emancipation] itself hardly matters.

From a sociological point of view, Horkheimer's and Adorno's works contain an ambivalence concerning the ultimate source or foundation of social domination, an ambivalence that gave rise to the "pessimism" of the new critical theory over the possibility of human emancipation and freedom. This ambivalence was rooted in the historical circumstances in which the work was originally produced, in particular, the rise of National Socialism, state capitalism, and mass culture as entirely new forms of social domination that could not be adequately explained within the terms of traditional Marxist sociology.

For Adorno and Horkheimer, state intervention in the economy had effectively abolished the tension in capitalism between the "relations of production" and "material productive forces of society"—a tension that, according to traditional Marxist theory, constituted the primary contradiction within capitalism. The previously "free" market (as an "unconscious" mechanism for the distribution of goods) and "irrevocable" private property of Marx's epoch gradually have been replaced by the more central role of management hierarchies at the firm level and macroeconomic interventions at the state level in contemporary Western societies. The dialectic through which Marx predicted the emancipation of modern society is suppressed, effectively being subjugated to a positivist rationality of domination.

How to draw

Flag of Frankfurt School

Color Name HEX RGB
White #FFFFFF 255, 255, 255
Red #FF0000 255, 0, 0
Gold #FBDF00 251, 223, 0
Darker Red #DE0010 222, 0, 16



  • Libertarian Marxism - A very good friend.
  • Situationism - We share many similarities in thought.
  • Neo-Marxism - My older brother. He influenced me greatly and it’s always a joy working with him.
  • Anti-Fascism - More radical version of the last guy, just make sure you keep distancing yourself from him.


  • Progressivism - A very popular fellow who takes many of my ideas, though you’re too moderate.
  • Maoism - I don’t quite know what to make of him. Some of my theorists loved him (especially the ones in France), others detested him.
  • Anarcho-Communism - You're cool and all, but Anarchism is childish and delusional.
  • Marxism–Leninism - Thanks for spreading socialism, but you're still too authoritarian for my likings.
  • Conservative Socialism - Quit calling me a radlib! But Essence of Time was influenced by us and Xi Jinping was also influenced by Marcuse and recommended people to read him.
  • Neoreactionaryism - Shullenberger is good, and Thiel is intelligent opponent, but others are not.
  • Neo-Enlightenment - 1000 Yard Stare at Neo-Enlightenment with complete misunderstanding how Habermas can be used in this creature's thoughts


Further Reading






  1. Conservative commentator Mark Levin has repeatedly accidently referred to the Frankfurt School as the "Franklin School"
  2. Counterrevolution and Revolt, page 56